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Too Good to Be True

Title: Too Good to Be True

Author: Carola Lovering

Genre: psychological thriller

This book was offered as a Book of the Month offer, and although I selected another book, this one sounded good, so I looked for it at my library. Holy. Smokes. This book is one of the best I’ve read this year. I absolutely loved it. It’s definitely crazy, but in such a fun way. It took turns I wasn’t expecting.

From Goodreads: Skye Starling is overjoyed when her boyfriend, Burke Michaels, proposes after a whirlwind courtship. Though Skye seems to have the world at her fingertips―she’s smart, beautiful, and from a well-off family―she’s also battled crippling OCD ever since her mother’s death when she was eleven, and her romantic relationships have suffered as a result.

But now Burke―handsome, older, and more emotionally mature than any man she’s met before―says he wants her. Forever. Except, Burke isn’t who he claims to be. And interspersed letters to his therapist reveal the truth: he’s happily married, and using Skye for his own, deceptive ends.

In a third perspective, set thirty years earlier, a scrappy seventeen-year-old named Heather is determined to end things with Burke, a local bad boy, and make a better life for herself in New York City. But can her adolescent love stay firmly in her past―or will he find his way into her future?

On a collision course she doesn’t see coming, Skye throws herself into wedding planning, as Burke’s scheme grows ever more twisted. But of course, even the best laid plans can go astray. And just when you think you know where this story is going, you’ll discover that there’s more than one way to spin the truth.

Nuts. This book is nuts. But in the best way possible. I actually shouted “HOLY CRAP” a couple of times when certain plot points were revealed. The story is expertly crafted and the characters jumped right off the page. Whether they were good people or not, they were definitely dynamic. I couldn’t put this book down. I’ve only read a handful of truly great thrillers this year (out of the dozens I’ve read), but I’m happy to say this one will be high on my recommendations.

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These Violent Delights

Title: These Violent Delights

Author: Chloe Gong

Genre: YA historical romance

PopSugar Reading Challenge Prompt: book on your TBR list with the prettiest cover

This cover is gorgeous. When I read the blurb for it on Book of the Month, I knew this would be my choice. I’m a sucker for Romeo and Juliet retellings. And this story sounded like so much fun. Set in 1920s Shanghi, and instead of falling in love and dying, they just broke up. Now they are older and soon-to-be leaders of their gangs. All this sounds like such a fun book. But I was bored to tears. It took me twice as long to read this one than other books of the same length. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but it was well-written and the characters were dynamic. I just couldn’t get into it.

From Goodreads: The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery. A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

So the two have to work together to keep people from dying because for some inexplicable reason, even though family members of theirs die, the heads of the gangs have nothing to do with the problem. Juliette drove me insane. I didn’t like her character at all. But again, for no real reason other than personal preference. I was really hoping this book would be fun and engaging. But, for me, it just missed the mark.

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Pretty Little Wife

Title: Pretty Little Wife

Author: Darby Kane

Genre: thriller

PopSugar Reading Challenge Prompt: A book from your TBR list that you meant to read last year but didn’t

In my quest to get through all my BOTM books before they stack up too much, I’m prioritizing the ones that don’t fit into a specific PopSugar prompt, like this one. The prompt I used for it is really vague, so I shoehorned it in. I’m trying to read more of what I want vs. books that I don’t really want to read but happen to fit a prompt. But if I can find one on my giant TBR list AND fits a prompt, fantastic. And since I’m a thriller junkie, most books from BOTM fit in this genre. Some have been great, some mediocre. Sadly, this book fits into the latter category.

From Goodreads: Lila Ridgefield lives in an idyllic college town, but not everything is what it seems. Lila isn’t what she seems. A student vanished months ago. Now, Lila’s husband, Aaron, is also missing. At first these cases are treated as horrible coincidences until it’s discovered the student is really the third of three unexplained disappearances over the last few years. The police are desperate to find the connection, if there even is one. Little do they know they might be stumbling over only part of the truth….

With the small town in an uproar, everyone is worried about the whereabouts of their beloved high school teacher. Everyone except Lila, his wife. She’s definitely confused about her missing husband but only because she was the last person to see his body, and now it’s gone.

Lila is such an unlikeable character. I didn’t feel any sort of connection to her at all. The plot reveal was obvious, the minor characters fell flat, and I didn’t care about the ending at all. But since I didn’t hate the book like I did others, I went ahead and gave it three stars.

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Winter Counts

Title: Winter Counts

Author: David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Genre: American indigenous literature, vigilante justice thriller

PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt: book written by an indigenous author

In my effort to dig my way through my giant TBR pile, I’m prioritizing books that fit into the PopSugar challenge and books I’ve gotten from the Book of the Month club. As I was scanning the book jackets of several, I discovered that this one fit a PopSugar prompt. Fantastic! And not only is this book by an indigenous author, it’s also about indigenous people, namely the Lakota. Growing up in Oklahoma, the plight of the indigenous people of this country was part of my education. Of course that was a couple of decades ago, so the white-washing of the situation was a given. With my vow to read more books written by more BIPOC authors, I was glad to see this one as a BOTM option.

From Goodreads: Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.

They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.

Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.

This book wasn’t as much of a thriller as I was expecting, but that’s okay. I still really enjoyed it. Virgil is a great character, although not one who participates in Lakota traditions, he’s surrounded by those who do. Taking place in present day, the author does a fantastic job of portraying the difficulties indigenous people still face. The book included some Lakota words, which I loved and had no trouble understanding them within the context. Thanks to BOTM for spotlighting this book. I really enjoyed it.

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The Night Swim

I’m loving The Book of the Month. (feel free to use my code to join. https://www.mybotm.com/da1c17916444?show_box=true I’ve gotten some really great books that might not have ended up on my radar. Books like The Shadows, The Sun Down Motel, A Good Marriage, and The Guest List have been a lot of fun to dig through. The Night Swim joins that list.

From Goodreads: After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

This book is a “ripped from the headlines” type. Popular swimmer (think Brock Turner), nearly unconscious girl, true crime podcaster, etc, but the dual storylines of past and present were really what made the story interesting. Neither one really could have stood alone, but how they intertwined was great. There were a few plot points that were implausible (notably that a high school girl who was mostly sober not noticing that the soda she was drinking was heavily spiked with vodka) but overall the story was really good, and both plots left me guessing.

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The Shadows

Hooray for Book of the Month. I’ve only gotten 8 boxes, but I’m hooked. So far, each month I’ve had no trouble picked a book that I am excited to read. The new hardback is only $15 and if you want to add another book, either another monthly pick or an older selection, that’s only $10. Mostly, I pick whatever horror/thriller book is offered, but there are a few other genres that I’ll test out from time to time. This thriller was one that I enjoyed quite a bit.

From Goodreads: You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.

Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…

There were some definite plot holes and tropes that I could have done without, bur overall the book really comes together in the end. The urban legend presented in this book was really interesting, as was its origin story. I’ve heard of Alex North because of his first book, The Whisper Man, which I will be reading because I enjoyed this one so much.

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A Good Marriage

It’s rare to find a thriller that’s from a lawyer’s perspective, or at least rare by what books I’ve read. So, when I selected this one for my most recent Book of the Month club pick, I was looking forward to it simply for that reason. I appreciate books that are told from a bit of an unusual perspective. Murder mysteries are usually told from a victim’s family or a police detective, so a defense attorney at least provides a different viewpoint.

Zach and Lizzie are old friends, so when Zach is arrested after the murder of his wife Amanda, he reaches out to Lizzie to defend him. She has to retrace Amanda’s footsteps and dig into her secrets, as well as deal with some secrets of her own. The story is told in past/present alternating chapters. Present is from Lizzie’s perspective and past is about Amanda’s life leading up to her murder.

There is a wide cast of friends in Amanda’s life, who you really don’t know whether or not to trust. Any one of them could have been the murderer, including Zach himself. The story is tightly woven and some good twists, turns, and reveals, and I found myself really enjoying this and not knowing where the plot would end up. Definitely recommend this one!

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The Guest List

This book was my first from Book of the Month. I was shocked to know that the books are only $15 with add-ons just $10. That’s a heck of a deal for brand new books. I don’t buy a ton of new books, but this deal is too good to pass up. You get to select one book from five choices and add-ons are other books from that month (if you can’t pick just one) or previous book selections. I love a good thriller, so unless the other options are authors I already know and love, I’ll usually end up getting a thriller. Coming soon….my review for the May thriller I chose.

The Guest List is set in Ireland and doesn’t use dialect, but does use common Irish phrases, so a few things went right past me because I was unfamiliar with them, but overall, this book was pretty easy to read. The story is told from various perspectives, as well as the day before a wedding, the morning of the wedding, and the wedding night. Each chapter is easily labeled, so it’s not confusing. And I really wanted to like this book. The premise is great, wedding on a spooky island, people have secrets, Bridezilla, but ultimately, I thought it was preposterous. I ended up giving it three stars because I did want to keep reading, but by the end, I was rolling my eyes so hard that I couldn’t finish the book quickly enough.